In Search of Lost Tone: American Poetry in a Year of Change

Reviewed:

Jennifer Chang, The History of Anonymity: Poems

Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival: Poems

Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time: Poems

Mary Ruefle, The Most of It

Sean Hill, Blood Ties & Brown Liquor

Lost in Lotus Land: Ben Hecht's Hollywood Letters

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Oh how tired I am. From writing 100 pages of dialogue & continuity in 4 days-rewritten as well-12 hours a day without stopping-all I feel is numbness and a buzzing. And I remember my Rosie, my Owner, and sigh, close eyes, dream a minute, kiss your knees, your thighs, while something in me murmurs mama, sweet one, sweet Rosie-and I feel a phantom of sweetness as if this moment too were a dream like last night.

Kissing

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I leaned into her, inhaled her wondrous scent and whispered, “I love you.” She said, “I love you too, Ronald.” I kissed her on the cheek. I kissed her again. Laura reciprocated. Our childish pecks devolved into slobbery smooches. So much kissing left me breathless. But I couldn’t stop.

Exit Strategies: Living Wills and Dying

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The only thing I was certain about was that if unplugged, she should immediately be euthanized and not be subjected to starvation. To die by starvation is to exit life with a curse. Ironically, modern medicine has arrived at a place where its responsibility to life is sometimes through the door of death.

A Conversation with Aleksandar Hemon

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It becomes part of your memory, and there is this porousness between the narrator’s mind and the reader’s mind. At some point, it literally shares space, narrative space. To me, that’s the exciting thing, that somehow, out of nothing, I as a writer create a space into which you as the reader can step.

Poetry Feature: Traci Brimhall

Featuring the poems:

 

Noli Me Tangere

We do not understand why they are dying,

but we know the disease spreads when they touch

so we let the tree frogs sing to us. We answer,

beckoning, faking mating calls to lure them

to our wet hands. We take note of their length

and weight and wounds, and put them in plastic bags.

Separated, their confused fingers press the surface.

This is not the body they longed for, no broad back

and speckled knees, no eggs waiting to release

and swell. But still, they sing like prisoners

with hands full of moonlight, and I want to quiet them,

the way, as a child, I broke a shell to keep it

from crying out for the sea. It is so loud here,

this country where a flower dreams of its color

before it opens, where we coax the sick from the trees.

Each morning I wake to kookaburras and a man stroking

a guitar, singing a song another man wrote about love.

At night, we transect creeks, eels skating our shins,

swollen leeches hooked to our calves as we shine

our flashlights on the banks. Everywhere we look

vines are choking the trees. They cling until they suffocate

the trunk beneath them, the strangler taking the shape

of what it has killed. Maybe some animals want to die

this way, to hold fast and feel something weakening

 

underneath them. Sometimes we interrupt the small male

in amplexus, gripping his lover’s generous back,

limbs freckled by sores, their pile of eggs, round

and imperfect. When we return to our tent, we take off

our clothes. This is not what we expected. We believed

in gristle, tendon and bone. Pathogen and host.

But we are minor kingdoms of salt and heat.

We trace each other’s scars-proof of our small

green hearts and violent beginnings, engines of cell

and nerve, yielding to this silent, lonely union.

 

 

Poetry Feature: Brian Swann

Featuring the poems:

 

The Procession

Last night, in the smoke, the moon had a seizure,

wobbling so you couldn’t understand it. Flowers

on the hillsides are still confused, flying off

in the remaining wind. Peasants are following

a funeral procession, heading for the horizon

lost in blue lightning. The dead man’s feet

point backward to the maize fields where he was born.

Ignazio whispers, “He said ‘Don’t leave me to die

on the side of the road. Don’t leave me at night with

my eyes covered between two policemen. Take me home.'”

A dog gnaws a bone in the dirt. No sign of policía.

Later, in the café he tells me he.d once read in an old book

about a fountain in the rocks where the water pours out

and becomes green, and about a turquoise spring

that sings between pebbles and the bell-bird responds.

The song of the water, he said, sounds like tambourines.

“Where is this place?” “It’s called Tonacatlalpan.

Only for princes, owners of the world, a world only

for princes, nothing for the vassals, the common folk,

those who grieve, those who suffer torment and misfortune

on earth.” The procession passes, and the air is suddenly

clear as glass. Moctezuma, I’ve heard, had many mirrors

in his palaces, so he was everywhere and nowhere,

exaggerated, diminished, getting lost in them,

in himself, and the mirrors broke.

Poetry Feature: Jeffrey Schultz

Featuring the poems:

  • J. Resists the Urge to Comment on Your Blog
  • The Gathering Blues

Persistent Views of the Unknown

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“Should I be afraid?” Jan blurts out. She is not aware of having even framed the thought before the words speak themselves. But once they’re out of her mouth, they seem to hang in front of her, as big as a billboard. Even in her e-mails to Morton she has never expressed this question quite so bluntly before.

Toddy M.

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We emerged from the dense flora, came around a bend as the road grew smoother, swung downhill toward the Indian Ocean and saw this naked foreign man surfing the inside of a perfect right-hand point break. He was moving left to right in front of me, gliding down the face of a powerful, beautifully formed cylinder of water. He stood more upright on the yellow surfboard than I would have imagined possible, his stance surprisingly sturdy-looking in spite of, or perhaps because of, his nudity.